Post COVID World: Possible Rise of Welfarism, Socialism, Animism
Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury
Friday, Mar 27, 2020
715

Just now the total cases of COVID afflicted people in the world are 5.4 lacs and total deaths are about 24k, which shall be much higher when you read it. US becomes the global epicentre of the pandemic crossing China and soon Italy will also cross China being just a few hundreds behind it. India is above 730, and that is because there is still no mass testing of the infection done among symptomatic suspects. This is surely NOT going to end so soon.
Last 24 hours have been dramatic for many nations. In contrast, Japan is fixed at some 1300 cases which was the second nation after China to be affected. Korea fixed at 9200. Singapore now appears below India with 680 roughly. And Germany has kept deaths fixed at 267 inspite of 44k cases. China of course is fixed at 81k for long. There are lessons to be learn from them. WHO has been updating for sure but needs to put up advisories based on best practices of those who halted the attack or death figures, for use by other nations, especially a large one like India. South Africa, Pakistan and India are to be observed now. India has announced lockdown, the largest quarantine in human history ever, of 1.3 billion people. So has South Africa. And Pakistan has declared emergency last night.
The fact that US has allocated 8% of GDP which is a total of 2 trillion dollar to combat COVID which is the highest crisis fund in human history tells something. India has not even allocated 1% of its GDP till now. US is staring at a huge recession and may even be stagnation for a while. That along with slump in China will bring down global economy majorly.
The fall of the US shows that this Virus does NOT respect any GDP size, national arrogance or military might. This signifies that post COVID new world order would be based not on military power and coercive diplomacy and GDP or stock market, but on pharma power, public health, tech driven education and health, and human development index of nations.
The US will emerge much poorer, much slowed, much mellowed, at lower costs for every space and product they have, with a heavy cost of rising unemployment, unviable lifestyles, and a heavy public demand for investments in public health and small and medium businesses that create jobs. This is surely the failure of the Mecca of global imperialist capitalism. They boasted the best health infrastructure which is also the most expensive in the world, and they had pride in the efficacy of their systems, and all of these lie tattered, with no respite in sight. President Trump's initial arrogance also is costing the nation very dearly.
Bernie Sanders may emerge to be the new US leader. And he has already advocated a shift to welfare economy and state with a tinge of socialism. The new revolution by mankind will emerge from the US this time, after Marxism and Green Revolution emerging from Europe and Non Alignment emerging from Afro-Asian nations in the past. Also tribals around the world pray to Nature. They are animists. We are back to that. Nature alone is the new God and homo sapiens alone is NOT God's creation.
The egoist Man who was hell-bent on taming nature, exploiting all resources, be rich without limits, not bothered about others falling by the wayside, is today humbled, bent, begging for mercy from God and nature. Never expected to see this in life.
Major changes are coming ahead in the world. While States will be demanding more entry into private lives of people, and this time in the name of public health and safety, citizens will be demanding more say in the way society is run. People will now focus on and demand quick and huge public healthcare investments, alleviation of poverty fast, cheaper digitally run education, lesser public role and control of religions and polarizing ideas and practices, and sustainable transport, attire, food and lifestyles. While these will change the way finance market works, there will be demands for essentials for every home and basic guaranteed income for a dignified human life. Rights to life, health, education, food, home and work will emerge as rallying points of the deprived more than 6 billions out of 7.7 billions of people of this world.
If the all-out crisis is acknowledged fully, the conclusion to be drawn from it will be that we all matter equally, that we need to look after one another, that we sink or swim together. This is not to be treated as no more than an isolated, fleeting lesson specific to this crisis, and an idealist or romantic one at most.
Most world leaders will still refuse to draw more general lessons - ones that might highlight their own culpability - about how sane, humane societies should function all the time. This lesson is not about authoritarian (Chinese, North Korean, Iranian) versus "free" European or North American societies, as also being protrayed. This is about societies that treasure the common wealth, that value the common good, above narrow private greed and profit, above protecting the privileges of a wealthy elite class, and that could be in both types of societies or nations.
There will surely be a clear move towards a silent socialism now, pressurized by masses of people who will now want a more equal society, both in Western bourgeois democratic and the eastern authoritarian nations. Socio-economic principle of survival of the fittest is bound to get a thumbs down in the post-Covid world. It is disheartening to see that European nations were leaving those above 80 years of age afflicted by the virus to die unable to cope up with enormity of the medical crisis. The legendary myth racial supremacy and higher humanism is broken by an invisible virus today.
Corona has humbled us and taught those who try to tame nature and services which are and should be available to all, that their days are numbered. We are afraid because the services we need in times of collective difficulty and trauma have been turned into commodities that require payment, or treated as privileges to which access is now means-tested, rationed or is simply gone. That insecurity is at the root of the current urge to hoard things.
People will, moving ahead, demand air, water, public health, public education, public transport all to be free or very cheap. Monopolization of the essentials will get a strong reprieve from the survivors of this pandemic. We have considered the providers of these essentials: doctors, nurses, teachers, transport professionals, water suppliers etc with near disdain and valued work people in finance or speculative markets very highly. This is bound to change ahead. The stock market positioning of oil and arms industries will fall, and that of pharma, healthcare, education and food producing companies will rise.
A new socialism may be born that asks people to give their best productivity to society, and pay them according to their contribution. A society which values human development and dignity above all, where success is measured by how many above a threshold level of development and not how high are GDP and per capita income are. A society which places citizens' rights to life, liberty, education, healthcare and work as most sacrosanct, and above borders, defence, diplomacy and global positioning of nations. A society which wants less but happier people, thus giving a boost to population control measures also, and less control on religions over the lives of humans.
In fact, the concept of nation-state as we know in this decadent capitalist global order, will be hit hard. Borders will be porous, and defence focus will not be the primary objective, replaced development focus. Nation states will not vanish but a lot of re-ordering of nations, coming together of many smaller ones, coming together in loose federations, etc will happen. Right wing politics will surely be facing a debacle, and left wing politics shall rise again from the hubris it is in, provided it can understand the changed times well and reset itself in the new lingo and aspirations of people.
While death and sickness and economic devastation due to lockdowns are sad and should end as soon as possible, the positives out of all this is good for mankind. The disease may go finally, the fear of similar fates will and should remain for long.
The author is a known media academic, a columnist, and a television panelist, and is currently working as the Pro Vice Chancellor of Kolkata based Adamas University.